United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
STENGEL, C. J.
BB&T Bank removed this action to federal court based on
diversity jurisdiction, after Plaintiffs Clement Nji Achoa
and Edison Ndikum filed their original complaint in the Court
of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. The plaintiffs allege
claims of negligence, assault and battery, false
imprisonment, and malicious prosecution against the
defendant. The plaintiffs' wives, Clementine Somba and
Lobline Ndikum, bring two claims against the defendant for
loss of consortium. The defendant has filed a motion to
dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, to which the plaintiffs responded. For the
following reasons, I will grant the motion.
amended complaint alleges that Mr. Achoa is employed by
Gripes Auto Sales which requires him to make frequent bank
transactions. On October 28, 2016, Mr. Achoa and Mr. Ndikum
were at an auto auction in Manheim, Pennsylvania. They left
the auction and went to the defendant's branch in
Lancaster, Pennsylvania to deposit checks and $12, 600 in
cash. Mr. Achoa is a customer of the defendant and usually
does business at its Lancaster branch. The cashier took the
checks and cash and began to process the transaction. The
cashier consulted with other staff members, and told Mr.
Achoa that he would have to wait for a receipt and for the
transaction to be processed. During the wait, Mr. Achoa
continually asked what the problem was, and he was repeatedly
assured that the computers were down, his transaction was
processing, and he and Mr. Ndikum were not to leave the bank.
After one hour, the police arrived. There were approximately
ten police officers throughout the bank including some
guarding the exits. The two plaintiffs were told by the
police and bank personnel that they could not leave the
p.m., the two plaintiffs were arrested for allegedly
attempting to pass counterfeit United States currency. They
were handcuffed in front of everyone in the bank and taken to
the police station. The two were placed in separate cells,
denied food and water, and were interrogated separately for
approximately one hour. Mr. Achoa overheard the police
officers joking about two black guys trying to pass off
approximately 9:30 p.m., a police officer opened the doors
and told the plaintiffs that they were allowed to come out
when they were ready. Secret Service agents had come to the
bank to check the money, and they determined that the cash
was legitimate United States currency. When Mr. Achoa walked
out of the cell, a police officer said, “The damn bills
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted examines the legal sufficiency of the
complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46
(1957). Following the Supreme Court decisions in Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) and
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009),
pleading standards in federal actions have shifted from
simple notice pleading to a more heightened form of pleading,
requiring a plaintiff to allege facts sufficient to show that
the plaintiff has a plausible claim for relief. Fowler v.
UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009).
Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires
“a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2), in order to “give the defendant fair notice of
what the . . .claim is and the grounds upon which it rests,
” Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. 544, the plaintiff
must provide “more than labels and conclusions.”
Byrne v. Cleveland Clinic, 684 F.Supp.2d 641, 649
(E.D. Pa. 2010)(citing Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. 544).
A facially plausible claim may not be supported by conclusory
allegations, but must allow the court “to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
Count I -- Negligence
amended complaint alleges that the defendant breached a duty
it owed to the two male plaintiffs as business invitees.
Specifically, it alleges that the defendant failed to,
inter alia: properly train its employees; properly
supervise the employees that detained the plaintiffs; draft,
implement, and enforce policies that would serve to eliminate
the use of illegal detainment; adequately train its work
force to recognize counterfeit currency; and properly monitor
its employees; properly investigate transactions. The amended
complaint also alleges that the defendant was negligent by
allowing its employees to profile customers.
state a claim for negligence in Pennsylvania, a plaintiff
must aver that (1) the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of
care, (2) the defendant breached that duty, (3) the breach
resulted in injury to the plaintiff, and (4) the plaintiff
suffered an actual loss or damage. Gabriel v. Giant
Eagle, Inc., 124 F.Supp.3d 550 (W.D. Pa. 2015) (quoting
Martin v. Evans, 711 A.2d 458, 461 (Pa. 1998)). The
plaintiffs allege that they were business invitees of the
bank. The duty owed to business invitees is the highest duty
owed to any entrant upon land. Falcone v. Speedway,
LLC, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7324, *4 (E.D. Pa. 2017). In
making out a prima facie case, a business invitee
must ultimately prove that the landowner had a hand in
creating the harmful condition, or that he had actual or
constructive notice of such condition. Id. at *5.
defendant argues that this claim fails for the following
reasons: (1) Mr. Ndikum was not a customer of the bank and
therefore was not owed a duty, see Fink v. Corporate
Liaison, LLC, 2013 U.S. Dist. 57532 (E.D. Pa. 2013); (2)
the gist of the action doctrine bars Mr. Achoa's
negligence claim because the duty owed to him arises under
contract, see eToll, Inc. v. Elias/Savion ...